A Humble Reflection on Race

"The very act of writing or speaking about race is fraught with difficulty even when one attempts to go about it in a critical and self-critical manner [especially for] those who are not ‘people of color.’" (from Dominick LaCapra’s introduction to The Bounds of Race.

the following passage is my original response to gloria anzaldua after reading "la conciencia de la mestiza: towards a new consciousness" for a course in literary theory close to three years ago. i include it here to engage in a further dialogue with gloria as well as myself...

I fail to associate myself with the terms white, Anglo, Caucasian. I feel that such terminology fails to define the color of my skin, much less my attitude towards those visibly, politically, personally different from myself. I also feel that words like those do nothing more than propagate the current society, the patriarchy. If there is to be real change, shouldn’t the language change as well? I applaud your words with the exclusion of your terms to describe those of European descent. Nearly all oppression relates back to the inhabitants of the continent of Europe in some form or another, but I feel no association with those people. I feel no association with this culture, this society, even if those in power somewhat resemble me. I have the blue eyes, yes, but I shave my head, a purposeful distancing of myself from those in power. I feel such an act makes me all the more vulnerable to scrutiny by all. I acknowledge my confusion, my fears, my desires, and I engage them in struggle every day. I am envious of your self-identity, the sense of where you are, for I have none. I feel no connection to those around me unless I converse with them and find a common ground to stand upon. I want nothing more than to be understood, to be acknowledged as a human being, to not be called white, Anglo, Caucasian. You write of the “gross injustice” (770) in lumping males who deviate from the norm with man. I consider it a gross injustice to lump all those of European descent as any of the three adjectives I wrote above. Please, Gloria, work with me in the creation of something mutually beneficial by which I might be known to you and to myself, too.

when reading gloria anzaldua's words, i'm reminded of reading malcolm x's autobiography and his fiery deliveries on the blue-eyed, white-skinned devil. i felt guilt and shame then, yet i actively worked against feeling that when i first read gloria anzaldua. perhaps i was simply tired of feeling such a way. in retrospect, though, i see my initial response to anzaldua as ignorant (big surprise), for it is too similar to a request to be educated and taken by the hand. in other words, i endangered anzaldua to become "reduced to [a purveyor] of resource lists" ("speaking in tongues" 79). much better for me concerns endeavoring on my own, seeking to educate myself rather than requesting it of third world individuals and thereby tokenizing them.

and yet, the pedagogue in me questions, "how could this work in a composition classroom? am i merely tokenizing myself, endangering myself to become reduced to a purveyor of resource lists? how might i actively work against this? am i doing this already?"